By Valerie Reddell
Tony Castillo announced last week to the Woodville Rotary Club that the Castillo Children's Center — a new company he founded with his brother — plans to open in June. The center will be located on Nellius St., at the site formerly occupied by the Sinclair Children's Center which closed in 2014.
During his 30-year career of working with abused and neglected children, Castillo has run several facilities, including Sinclair for a portion of the time it operated in Woodville.
In 2008, under Castillo's leadership, Sinclair had a 90 percent success rate. Sinclair was a residential treatment facility for abused and neglected children between the ages of 5 and 17. The level of care needed by those youngsters ranges from minimal to intensive, and just short of what is offered at a psychiatric hospital.
Success at facilities like Sinclair and what Castillo has planned for the new center, is measured by a child advancing to a lower level of care.
Since achieving those successes often meant a child was uprooted and sent to a facility in another community, Sinclair expanded. The center purchased the athletic facility for the old Woodville High School and converted it to a 16-bed dorm.
"That allowed kids to stay in the community, churches and school system where they got better," Sinclair said.
Castillo said Sinclair's closure left the community with a bad impression.
"(The new center) will have my name on the side of the building," Castillo said, indicating he's willing to stake his personal reputation on the facility's success.
The Castillo Center will be licensed for children from 5 to 17, but will focus on 8- to 14-year-olds.
He expects children to begin moving to Woodville in June, then work up to 34 available beds in the first three years. Eventually, Castillo has set his sights on housing 45 children.
Castillo said he will be making contact with 20 former Sinclair staffers. Ultimately, the business will provide 45 new jobs in the community, with an annual payroll of $2 million.
Prior to its opening, public hearings will be held to give residents an opportunity to learn more about the new business and have any questions answered. Castillo has met with Woodville's Mayor Pro Tem Joyce Wilson to discuss the new venture. He regularly meets with Woodville ISD Superintendent Glen Conner, as Castillo is an elected trustee for the school district.
Initially, newly arrived residents at the center will participate in a self-paced school program using a laptop at the Center, Castillo explained.
"We will try to transition them to public school," he added.
Castillo also plans to partner with local youth sports times just as Sinclair did prior to its closure, providing another bonus to the community.
Once a center resident enrolls with WISD, Castillo said staff members will accompany their charges onto the campus in the same ratio needed at the center, to help children be successful on campus and address any issues that could arise.
Castillo expects the center's relationship with the district to be a positive for the community as a whole.
When Sinclair closed, WISD lost 40 students and an estimated $300,000 in revenue due to the lower weighted average daily attendance.
Castillo pointed out that the state pays a higher rate for students with identified special needs.
Rotarians with professional backgrounds in education say the classroom environment won't change for existing students.
Disruptions or disciplinary interventions occur every day in most schools, according to Rochelle Springfield, a former high school principal.
"In reality, kids with some of the same issues sit next to your kids at school now," Castillo said. "They just haven't been identified yet."
Another difference for the typical WISD student once students from the Castillo center join them on campus will be that staff from the center are trained to intervene and assist educators with disruptions or other negative behaviors.
Woodville businessman Fred Sullivan voiced his support for the facility.
"For years, Sinclair was an asset to the community. I look forward to it being reopened," Sullivan said.
A date for the public hearing for licensure of the Castillo Children's Center will be announced in the Tyler County Booster when those arrangements are finalized.